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Ad Groups Ponder Web Privacy

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IBM Looks to Spark Awareness Campaign to Inform Consumers
WASHINGTON, D.C.--Advertising lobby groups are considering launching a $15-25 million ad campaign to educate the public about Internet-privacy issues.
Sources said IBM, which attempted to head off legislation last year by pulling its Internet advertising from any Web site that did not post a privacy policy, is willing to contribute $1 million to the effort. IBM asked its lead agency, Ogilvy & Mather, to determine the cost of a one-year campaign. The New York shop proposed a $15-25 million figure.
Driving the debate is public fear of earlier plans by Web ad networks, such as DoubleClick, to link each consumer's personal identity to the anonymous data it collects from Internet users.
The ad campaign discussions also come on the heels of a bill introduced Feb.
10, by Sen. Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., that would require commercial Web sites to get customer permission before private data is collected.
The groups considering action include the American Association of Advertising Agencies, the Association of National Advertisers and the Direct Marketing Association.
IBM would neither confirm the amount of its offer nor discuss Ogilvy's involvement. "IBM is and has been willing to work with other companies to do education and outreach on privacy issues," said Harriet Pearson, director of public affairs.
"Consumers need to be reassured," said John Kamp, a senior vice president at the 4A's, who was named to the Federal Trade Commission's Advisory Committee on Online Access and Security in January. "One of the best-kept secrets in America is you can protect your privacy on the Web."
It's unclear if advertisers would donate the funds necessary to back the campaign. Not everyone agrees that an ad campaign is the best approach. "I like the idea of educating consumers," said Patricia Faley, DMA vice president of ethics and consumer affairs. "Whether this is the right forum to do this in is another question."